I’m a single mum, a responsible, good person who contributes to society and a good mum who’s raising a healthy, happy child. I’ve paid my taxes honestly, done years of volunteer work and I’d smile at you if I saw you in the street. I’m not a snarling scrag who leaves the kids in the car while I spend my cheques on booze. I spend quality time raising my daughter. I was badly injured giving birth so I’m not able to go back to the career I enjoyed previously, as much as I’d love to, and employment options are limited. So, it’s time that I have to invest in creating the most well-rounded and intelligent gift to this country that I can. Single parent payments have been my lifeline as I piece together a new career, piece together my body and undertake 24 hours a day of parenting on my own.
Although the recent Senate decision to pass The Fair Incentives to Work Bill (designed to incentivise parents to return to work) does not affect me immediately, it’s made me think about those whose lives will become even more challenging in the near future. The changes to social security will take place in January 2013 and will see sole parents with a youngest child over eight years moved off single parent payments and onto Newstart Allowance. In a nutshell, they’ll have increased obligations, reduced payments and a whole world of extra stress and hardship. Not the best recipe for growing the next generation of a healthy nation.
For many, the PPS (parent payment single) is the lifeline that supports sole parents through the pitfalls of a casualised workforce and with these changes, anyone who is working casual hours will have the income threshhold lowered- meaning they won’t be able to earn as much before their payment is affected. Anyone who is shifted from PPS to Newstart will automatically have their benefit reduced by around $60 – $100 per week. In my world that’s the equivalent of a week’s worth of fruit and vegies, ambulance cover and a few warm baths.
Utilities and rent prices are going up all the time and for some reason, lately, it seems that the fewer items you put into the shopping basket, the more it costs. Money is always tight, so the idea of having less of it….is suffocating.
It’s a Western World whinge. At this stage, most of us have a roof over our head, access to benefits and a subsidised health system; we’re not walking for hours to get to the nearest well or unable to treat our children’s malaria. We’re fortunate enough to live in Australia, a land where the mineral resources are a-plenty and the CEOs are the richest in the world. So why then, is the hour of a parent worth so much less than theirs?
I absolutely consider child rearing to be a job- that’s why there’s an industry in childcare. In civilised society, it’s a job. And whether I choose to do it or pay someone else to do it, it’s really quite irrelevant. The only problem is, that deciding to raise your child yourself, puts you at a disadvantage. Raising a child removes you from a competitive workforce for many years, it pays a pitiful wage per hour and is often maligned in community perception. Single parents who stay with their child, either by choice or circumstance will be put into financial peril by the Senate’s decision.
A decrease in payment reduces ability to afford healthy food, proper dental care, decent living arrangements…. education… birthday presents. I appreciate that the economy needs to be put back into surplus, but quite frankly, I think there are far more wasteful allocations of funds than those given to parents. Taking money away from the people who spend everything they have on the local economy, investing it in the country’s future seems counterproductive to me.
From here on, every hour is precious, every cent is marked and life becomes about survival. Single parents, if you have to scrump, make toys out of matchboxes, eat weeds, live in the dark, then do it. Do what you have to do to keep a roof over your head and provide your families with the best life you can possibly have; trade with your neighbours, barter your skills and band together as a community. Share and find laughter wherever you can. Money is tight, but friendship is tighter.
One of the last things we should do is take it out on each other, and the very last thing we should do is take it out on the kids. Good luck. And please read the last word I write, carefully, for it is one of the few remaining things I feel I can afford to do for the love of it- other than raise my child; pay attention to it because like all parents, it has earned your acknowledgement and give it your deepest respect.